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Eugenics

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A drawing to advertise eugenics from the Second International Congress of Eugenics in 1921.

Introduction

A picture of Sir Francis Galton, the person who coined the term eugenics.

Eugenics is the study or belief in improving the future generations of humanity by discouraging the reproduction of people with defects or imperfections. [1] .The first person to use the term eugenics was Sir Francis Galton in 1883 in his book Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development[2]. He was Charles Darwin’s cousin and a popular British scholar. Eugenics means “well- born.” [3]

Galton was influenced by the idea from Charles Darwin of natural selection. Galton’s theory was that the elite class was made up of people with a good genetic composition and he wanted to experiment with selective breeding. This plan never actually came to pass in Britain, but his studies eventually led to other countries noticing and taking action. In the late 1800s, the eugenics movement began in the USA to stop the passing on of undesirable traits to future generations, so they began to fund the studies for it. Many people took interest in these studies such as politicians, private citizens, and scientists. Even important people like Theodore Roosevelt supported it. [4]

The Eugenics Record Office

All of this led to the establishment of the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) in Cold Spring Harbor in New York. The ERO was in charge of tracking family histories and traits in order to find a consistent malfunctioning gene and eradicate it. Their conclusion was that people with less desirable traits came from families that were poor, immigrants, of low class, or minorities. [3] This drove them to want to eliminate these problems so they decided that the best way to do so would be to use sterilization to inhibit further reproduction of people in these categories. They also released stricter immigration laws to avoid the problems of immigrants. In the 1900s, 33 states created sterilization programs which focused on things from mental illness to promiscuity. Many people were even sterilized against their will and by the end of that time up to 65,000 people were sterilized. [3]

Problems with Eugenics

Some problems with eugenics began with people's confidence in the same technique that Gregor Mendel used to experiment with pea genes. People had been using those experiments to reproduce the physically strong livestock and they believed it could work with humans.The problem, however, was that their whole basis for “fit” or “unfit” was categorized into categories like “criminality” and “feeblemindedness.” They ignored all other factors that might contribute to these characteristics, and instead blamed it on a gene. For almost thirty years information was gathered about family histories and when people could not show up for an interview, the people would just place in whatever category they thought was best or would find their information from prisons or hospitals. Therefore the research was conducted with the belief that all genes came in predictable patterns like peas, but they did not take into account that there were other important factors that played a role in those gene developments like environmental factors that Mendel discovered but chose to leave out because it didn’t all fit into his categories. [5]

Eugenics in World War II

Some of the people during World War II who were considered "unfit to live".

Eugenics eventually stopped being as popular because of what occurred in World War II. The Germans decided to exterminate all “racially impure, physically disabled, mentally infirm, criminally minded, and sexually aberrant.” [6] They believed that Germany was being contaminated by all of these people and they justified the murder of millions of people with eugenics and Darwinism. After the horrors of World War II, eugenics became a topic of embarrassment and it was dropped from many organization names and books.[4]

Biblical Worldview

Biblical worldview must play a huge part in eugenics. It is a very controversial topic that many people have debated and struggled over for many years. Although the Bible does not have much to say about perfecting humans it does mention in Genesis that God commanded Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1: 28) there is no mention about decreasing the number of people on the Earth. In Psalms the author writes that “children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalms 127:3). In regards to euthanasia God has decreed that he is the one who has chosen the day we are born and the day we die. (Job 14:5). Jesus commanded his followers to defend the weak (Matthew 20:35-36), and when someone asked him about a blind man he answered that he was blind so that “the works of God might be displayed in Him” (John 9: 1-3). [7] Using the topic of abortion, most professionals say that human life does not actually begin until the baby can survive by itself outside of the womb. But God says that from the moment of conception a human life is formed. In Jeremiah it says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5, ESV). [8] At three weeks a baby’s heart begins to beat, at six weeks they move their arms and legs and you can measure their brain waves, and at 20 weeks the baby can survive outside of the womb. [9] In Exodus, God commands his people not to murder (Exodus 20:13), and that is exactly what abortion is.

Modern Eugenics

Today eugenics is used in several different ways. Its main use is to test for heritable diseases like hemophilia, cystic fibrosis or down syndrome. [3] People will choose to undergo genetic screening so that they know if they are likely to pass down any sort of genetic disease to their child. If so, some couples choose to adopt or not have any children at all. If a couple finds out when they are already pregnant, some choose to abort the child. [4] It is also used for people who wish to use in-vitro fertilization and choose the “perfect” traits. In the future people have talked about opening sperm banks and even cloning humans. [4]

Abortion:

A photo of a baby removed from the womb at 10 weeks

One main form that eugenics is carried out through is abortion. Abortion is the removal of a fetus from the womb resulting in death. Reasons people give for abortion are an unwanted pregnancy, risk of an unhealthy baby, the mother cannot afford the baby, the husband or father does not want the child, or the mother has health problems among other reasons. [10] Statistics say that in 2016 there were approximately 893, 000 abortions and in 2014 19% of pregnancies ended in abortion. [11]

Euthansia: Euthanasia is taking an action to end a person’s suffering by ending their life. It is illegal in most countries but each state has its own laws in the United States. There are two types of euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia is when the patient gives consent to be euthanized, and involuntary euthanasia is when a third party makes the decision because the patient cannot make that decision for themselves. Voluntary euthanasia is legal in Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Oregon, and Washington. Two more categories that euthanasia is placed in are passive and active euthanasia. Active euthanasia is when the patient is given lethal substances or a different action is taken to end their life. Passive euthanasia is when treatments that could sustain the patient’s life are not given to them. [12]

Video

This video gives a brief summary of eugenics throughout history.

References

  1. Eugenics Dictionary.com. Accessed January 18, 2018. author unknown
  2. Eugenics Rational Wiki. Accessed January 18, 2018. author unknown
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 History of Eugenics Genetics Generation. Web. Accessed January 18, 2018.author unknown
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Wilson, Philip Eugenics Encyclopaedia Britannica. Web. Accessed January 18, 2018
  5. Norrgard, Karen. Human Testing, the Eugenics Movement, and IRBs Nature Education. Accessed January 18, 2018.
  6. Llewellyn, Jennifer. Nazi Eugenics Alpha History. Web. Accessed February 1, 2018.
  7. Does the Bible Support Eugenics got Questions.org. Web. Accessed February 1, 2018. author unknown
  8. Fairchild, Mary. What Does the Bible Say About Abortion? ThoughtCo.. Web. Published March 17, 2017.
  9. Johansen, Jay. [ http://www.pregnantpause.org/develop/when.htm When Does Human Life Begin?] Pregnant Pause. Web. Published September 9, 2000. (specify whether date of publication or last-modified or accessed - i.e. Published November 3, 2015.)
  10. Johnston, Robert. Reasons given for having abortions in the United Staes Johnston's Archives. Web. Published January 18, 2016.
  11. [http://abort73.com/abortion_facts/us_abortion_statistics/ U.S. Abortion Statistics ] Abort73.com. Web. Published January 22, 2018. author unknown
  12. Nordqvist, Christian. [ https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/182951.php What are euthanasia and assisted suicide?] Medical News Today. Web. Published December 12, 2017.

External Links

See Also